Health Information

Gastroparesis

What is gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis is a stomach disorder in which the stomach takes too long in emptying its contents. If food remains in the stomach for too long, it can cause problems such as bacterial overgrowth from the fermentation of the food. The food can also harden into solid masses, called bezoars, that may cause nausea, vomiting, and, sometimes, obstruction in the stomach. This can be dangerous if they block the passage of food into the small intestine.

What causes gastroparesis?

Most often, this condition is a complication of type 1 diabetes. It can also occur in persons with type 2 diabetes, although not as frequently. Gastroparesis is caused when the vagus nerve, which controls the movement of food through the digestive tract, is damaged or stops working. When this happens, the movement of food is slowed down or stopped.

The vagus nerve becomes damaged in persons with diabetes when blood glucose (sugar) levels remain high over a long period of time.

Other causes of gastroparesis include the following:
  • anorexia nervosa
  • surgery on the stomach or vagus nerve
  • postviral syndromes
  • certain medications, particularly those that slow contractions in the intestine
  • smooth muscle disorders, such as amyloidosis and scleroderma
  • diseases of the nervous system, such as abdominal migraine and Parkinson's disease
  • metabolic disorders, including hypothyroidism

Treatment for gastroparesis:

Specific treatment for gastroparesis will be determined by your physician based on:
  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the condition
  • your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference